The 2015 NFL playoffs are officially underway, and the Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens each drew first blood. The Panthers beat the Arizona Cardinals 27-16, and the Ravens beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-17. The Panthers second round opponent depends on the winner of today's Cowboys-Lions matchup. The Ravens are the No. 6 seed, so they will face the New England Patriots next week.
The Cardinals fell behind early, but eventually took a 14-10 lead. However, they could not get back on the scoreboard until a late, meaningless safety. The lack of an effective quarterback caught up with them, as Ryan Lindley was 16 of 28 for 82 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Carolina won, but was not overly impressive. They did get a strong performance from Jonathan Stewart, and will need that against whomever they face in the divisional round.
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The Ravens were behind 3-0, but took the lead early in the second quarter, and never trailed after that. Joe Flacco and the defense were key in this one. The Ravens will need a bigger day from Justin Forsett next week when they face the Patriots.
The big news for San Francisco 49ers purposes is that Todd Bowles is immediately available to start interviewing for head coach positions. He would have been available with a win, but now he can take multiple interviews with teams outside the context of the playoff schedule. The 49ers requested permission to interview Bowles, so he could be interviewing sooner rather than later with them and other teams.
The playoffs continue on Sunday with the Indianapolis Colts hosting the Cincinnati Bengals at 10:05 a.m. PT. The winner advances to face the Denver Broncos. That is followed by the Dallas Cowboys hosting the Detroit Lions at 1:40 p.m. PT. If the Cowboys win, they face the
Seattle Seahawks Green Bay Packers. If the Lions win, they face the Green Bay Packers Seattle Seahawks.